Review: ‘Forever Plaid’ at Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville, PA

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Picture this: Four resurrected deceased men, donning duplicated white tuxedo jackets, parade down the center aisle of Jean Stapleton’s, Totem Pole Playhouse. Chanting, “Deus Ex Plaid”, the Lazarus quadruple ascends stage left, still firmly grasping their own, individual memorial candles. Upon arrival, this team of melodic ghouls, echo a harmonic river of vocal synergy – they are, “The Four Plaids.”

The Plaids: Left to Right: Louis Griffin, Derek Kastner, Gabe Wrobel and Stavros Koumbaros. Photo courtesy of Totem Pole Playhouse.
The Plaids: Left to Right: Louis Griffin, Derek Kastner, Gabe Wrobel, and Stavros Koumbaros. Photo courtesy of Totem Pole Playhouse.

Forever Plaid chronicles the earthly lives of four, tragedy-stricken high school besties – killed during a vehicle collision with a school bus full of Catholic girls heading to The Ed Sullivan Show, hoping to catch a glimpse of a spawning British boy-group; made up of Paul, John, Ringo and George. A plot-starter that is ironic or moronic?… you be the judge. In their own heavenly palace of Jetson family wall decorations and 1960s hotel interior gimmicks (scenic design by Tom Ryan), the afterlife reflections of Frankie, Jinx, Sparky, and Smudge come to life (pun intended)

Christine O’Grady takes the directorial reins and the choreography of Totem Pole’s third presentation of the summer, featuring little ditties like, “Magic Moments”, “Chain Gang”, and “Cry”. The staple-songs of 1950’s vocal groups known as, “The Hi-Los”, “The Crew Cuts”, and more are mimicked by a candid crew: Louis Griffin (Frankie), Derek Kastner (Jinx), Stavros Koumbaros (Sparky), and Gabe Wrobel (Smudge), all striving to please an audience with “the show that never was” – a teenage dream for the “teen” in all of us.

Darren Server provides the fine musical direction. Tom Ryan provides the set and lighting design, Gary Greyhosky the crisp sound, and Jackie Rebok designed the colorful costumes.

Plaid exists as a proper inclusion to the jukebox musical catalog; therefore, it should be no surprise when “Catch a Falling Star” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” begin to invoke nostalgic tendencies. 

The vocal abilities of Griffin, Kastner, Koumbaros and Wrobel pass with flying colors as qualified, musical vessels for an evening where humming proves to be a perfectly acceptable reaction to the plaid, lyrical leaders. Sparky will have audiences throwing out their sympathies for days during Koumbaros’ performance of “Perfidia”; a beautiful reflection of a broken heart, mirrored as a departed prayer from a life cut too short. Ross’ character intentions are as humorous, as they are mournfully forgiving. Griffin delivers a powerful, emotional monologue in the show’s final moments. A spotlight shines on Frankie’s personal desire to deliver cohesive, harmonious vocal eloquence one final time – he can only do it “with a little help from his friends.”

If you love the melodious sounds of the 50s, travel down memory lane at Forever Plaid.

Running Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.

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Forever Plaid plays through July 3, 2016 at Totem Pole Playhouse -9555 Golf Course Road, in Fayetteville, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (717) 352-2164, or purchase them online.